The camera I just recommended to everyone who asked me this holiday season, "Which camera should I buy for someone who.......????"

It happens. You are a professional photographer. Your friends have this idea that you must know everything about every facet of the imaging business. I get phone calls asking me about weddings. I get phone calls asking me about shooting baby photos, and twice a year I get a lot of phone calls from friends asking me what camera they should buy for: Their spouse, their graduating senior, their college junior about to do a semester abroad, their small business, their once in a lifetime trip to XXXXXXX. Very few of these people really wanted to get mixed up in the sticky spider web of photographic technique practiced at the highest technical level. Those I send to Ming's site. To the rest I end up recommending the camera above. 

Interesting thing about the Nikon entry level, APS-C camera line, is that they all pretty much have the same absolutely excellent, Sony, 24 megapixel, imaging sensor. This means that the camera is 90% of the way to fulfilling the real technical needs of just about anyone out there. The camera represented above has shared the same basic body design, with a host of similar cameras, for fifteen years; ditto  the menus. Nikon has had a lot of time getting things just right. And to understand how to craft a camera for beginners.

But the reason I recommend the package consisting of the D3300 body and the lens above is that the kit lens, the VRII version, is sharp and well corrected, and adds vibration reduction to the system. It's the equivalent of a 28-70mm. The camera is small and light and pretty much bulletproof. Plus the batteries last twice as long as most mirrorless camera batteries. 

One of my friends came to me yesterday and wanted to know what to buy. He'd had someone recommend a Sony RX100iiii to him, or, at a lower cost level, the new Canon G5X. I looked at both of those cameras and laughed. My friend didn't want to spend $800+ on a camera. He's got big hands too. I know the one inch sensor in both of those cameras are really good but, to someone who is a casual shooter I know they'll be more comfortable dropping $395 and getting a camera that has the potential to outshoot both of the above mentioned cameras. The Nikon focuses faster, the chip has better high ISO capability and, down the road my friend or his kids, can add a flash, add more lenses or use the same lenses on updated or upgraded bodies. 

I've had neophyte friends buy trendier cameras and struggle to use them well. The Nikon line just works. If a person has been indoctrinated in believing in Canon cameras I am happy to research the equivalent Rebel. I just believe that this class of cameras are the best bargains out there today and that they provide the best platform for people who are just starting their photographic journey, beyond the cellphone. 

I was looking at yet another little camera as a possible "take everywhere" camera when I started researching cameras like the D3300 as well. Half the price for more performance, and I can put a Sigma Art lens on this puppy and get amazing results. No sense recommending more. You'll just have nominated yourself as the "camera support/teacher/coach for someone's longer learning curve. 

That's my stock recommendation. 


Richard Alan Fox said...

Big day in my house, today my son moved on from my old S90 to my old D3200.

Gary said...

While the D3300 would indeed be an excellent choice for a beginner, I find my D3200 a fine walking-around camera. Small, light, great sensor, and it handles mixed lighting well on auto-white balance. I do wonder about its durability on an extended trip, but I'm careful and have not had a problem in that regard yet. Kirk, you mentioned once that the penta-mirror viewfinder is not as brilliant as the higher-end Nikons, and that's true, but the complete package is highly useful and well worth the price.

William Beebe said...

Excellent recommendation. I couldn't agree more.

My recommendation is the new iPhone 6s+, which I purchased for my own use about three weeks ago. I recommend it for everyone who has an Android phone but want something "more." Personally, except for some fringe work, I'm completely divested of Android. I've gotten used to the iPhone's camera, and it produces remarkable results.

I've also stopped buying Olympus, just using up what I've got. If, and when, I decide to buy a new future camera, it'll be either the Nikon D3xxx or D5xxx (if money is burning a hole in my pocket). And maybe, just maybe, one or two Sigma primes. Folks complain about the dark pentamirror OVF, but thanks to smart phones and Olympus, I use the camera's rear screen to compose and focus, as well as use touch to pick the focus point. The Nikon D5500 has the same features.

In any event, 2015 is a good time to buy just about any kind of camera. Next year is Photokina. I wonder what we'll be treated to in 2016...

Carlo Santin said...

Good advice. With the D3300 and kit lens and the 55-200 and even one of the great cheap primes 35mm 1.8 or 50mm 1.8 and you have a very capable kit for under 1k. The Sony rx10 or the Panny FZ would be other options as well, though more expensive and slightly poorer ISO performance, but either of those cameras removes the need to purchase additional lenses and would be ideal for someone just wanting a holiday and family occasion camera.

Craig Yuill said...

The Nikon D3300 is a good choice, with a very good sensor, and decent kit lenses. But I am a little surprised you didn't also suggest the Olympus OM-D EM10 II, given its similar characteristics and performance to your EM5 II. Or perhaps the Panasonic FX1000 that you have recently been praising. The D3300 is, no doubt, a fine stills camera - but the others would likely be better for video, should the owner want to do double duty with one camera.

Kirk Tuck said...

Craig, Most of the people I know are ham fisted brutes who need a bigger camera that they can fling around their SUVs or shove into a purse crowded with crap and still have it work. The m4:3 are great cameras for people who already understand photography and have the skill sets to make them work. The Rebels and inexpensive Nikon DSLRs are for people who just want to get on with it. They are also substantially cheaper while easier to get acceptable results with.

Kirk Tuck said...

Carlo, the thing that sells me on the camera I recommend is that it's a monster good picture taking machine in the right hands and much cheaper to initially acquire. One third the price of the RX10.2 and almost half the price of the fz 1000.

We like cameras that are different because we understand the tradeoffs. The rank amateur typically does not have that "acquired" taste.

Dave said...

I just bought one of these direct from Nikon for less than $300. I'm like... Are you kidding me? Total no brainer indeed. We've had a D3200 for several years and the D3300 nudges the bar forward a little more from what I already thought was a pretty amazing little camera. I use the RX10 and RX100 for different purposes but yeah mirrorless and high end compacts are NOT for bargain shoppers.

Dave V said...

I don't have nearly as much experience as Kirk, but a Pentax K50 with an 18-135 WR is my typical recommendation.

I think the Pentax K50 with the 18-135 WR is a great deal for a lot of people. The big New York shops have that combo for under $650 right now. The Sony sensor in it is a good one. A decent percentage of people want really nice family photos and landscapes without needing to change the lens (no sensor cleanings if the lens STAYS on!!!) and an 18-135mm lens paired with a 16mp APS-C sensor can put more pixels on a distant subject than an 18-55 lens paired with a 24mp APS-C sensor. The weather resistance of the lens and body add a lot of versatility for shooting in various conditions. This is a big advantage of the Pentax K50 over something like a Nikon d3300.

On sensor IS has the advantage of being "portable" should the user ever decide to branch out into other lenses such as vintage primes. Even low end Pentax cameras can meter vintage KA mount manual focus lenses from the mid 80s. Heck, the low end Pentax cameras can meter the m42 lenses that can be purchased for very reasonable prices and attached with an adapter. The Nikon d3300 can fit some neat non-ai Nikon lenses without modification because its mount is different than the Nikon bodies with the af motor in it, but there is no metering help. It does take some experience to internalize the "sunny 16" metering aid.

The k50 also has an actual pentaprism with 100% coverage which is a nice upgrade over the 95% coverage in the d3300.

Now, if someone is given a pile of nice Nikon/Canon/Minolta/Olympus/ETC lenses and wants to use those the recommendation certainly changes. As an enthusiast I would rather buy a body for a lens than chase after the ultimate DXO sensor score. I was using (and still use) a Pentax camera and I bought a Nikon body with an af motor in it because a good friend gave me some of his lovely older Nikon lenses.